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Paedophile Robert Black got £5,500 private plane for Belfast trial

THE authorities paid more than £5,500 to hire a private plane for serial child killer Robert Black's trial, it has been revealed.

Black, 64, received "Rolls-Royce treatment" as he was transported for trial from England.

The paedophile was told he must serve a minimum of 25 years for murdering nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy, who was snatched as she cycled to a friend's house in Ballinderry, County Antrim in 1981.

Democratic Unionist peer Lord Maurice Morrow said: "I am utterly appalled at the overt expenditure in this case. It is simply outside the realms of reasoning to have the taxpayer shell out this amount of money."

The murderer, who has been convicted of killing four young girls and is being investigated over a fifth disappearance, is serving 12 life sentences at Wakefield Prison.

This includes jail terms for murder and kidnapping handed down by Mr Justice Ronald Weatherup at Belfast Crown Court last month, which effectively added a further seven years to the date at which Black could be considered for release.

The former delivery driver abducted Jennifer while on a work trip to Northern Ireland and dumped her body in water close to the main Belfast-Dublin road near Hillsborough, Co Antrim, before catching a ferry home.

The legal aid bill for the Northern Ireland case is £350,000 and is set to climb further when counsel submit their full accounts, Lord Morrow said.

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford told Lord Morrow that £5,675 was paid for a private plane to transport the convicted murderer for trial to Northern Ireland from his prison in Britain by London's Ministry of Justice. It was a one way trip.

Lord Morrow added: "The legal aid fund and the defence of criminals should not be used as an open cheque-book under the guise of human rights legislation.

"I am satisfied Robert Black's rights would have been adequately served under the usual precedents and by routine prisoner transfer."

He added: "I am demanding a full explanation for the sanctioning of such Rolls-Royce treatment."

The Justice Minister said the normal way to transfer prisoners to and from jurisdictions was by standard plane or ferry.

Lord Morrow said the cost was paid from the National Offender Management Service through the Ministry of Justice in Westminster.

The peer said he could have been seated on a regular flight in a rear row with police and prison staff to avoid being conspicuous or could have travelled on a vehicle and ferry.

Lord Morrow added: "I never cease to be astounded at the continual high level outlay for offenders which is in stark contrast to victims and their families, but this case has surpassed all others to date."

Black was found guilty in 1994 of three child murders in the 1980s - those of 11-year-old Susan Maxwell, from the Scottish Borders, five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper, 10, from Morley, near Leeds.

His reign of terror finally ended in 1990 when he was caught red-handed with a six-year-girl hooded, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sleeping bag in the back of his van in the Scottish village of Stow. He had sexually assaulted her moments earlier.

During his trial for Jennifer's murder, Black did not betray a flicker of emotion, presenting an unwavering picture of cold indifference.

Black was born in 1947 near Falkirk in Scotland to a single mother who put him up to be fostered within weeks.

The couple who took him in later died and Black was placed in a children's home back in Falkirk.

The predatory paedophile has long been the prime suspect in the case of missing 13-year-old Genette Tate, who was last seen in a rural lane in Aylesbeare, Devon, in 1978.

Black's transfer was highly unusual, but the decision took into account the circumstances of his convictions.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The Ministry of Justice does not comment on individual cases.

"We have long-standing arrangements in place for transferring prisoners for judicial purposes and public protection is always our priority."